Meet the Band Playing the Capitol Christmas Tree-Cutting Ceremony

Karisa Hoover and Cie Hoover of You Knew Me When.
Karisa Hoover and Cie Hoover of You Knew Me When. Kendra Bomar
Back in 1964, Speaker of the House John McCormick planted a Christmas tree on the lawn of the United States Capitol. That tree only made it three years. So in 1970, to avoid the embarrassment of a dead tree besmirching government property, the Capitol architect tapped the U.S. Forest Service to provide a holiday tree each year from a different national forest. This year, it's coming from Colorado.

On November 6  — days after a contentious election that has bots and Bugaloo Bois chirping about a new civil war, amid a pandemic and during a year that has seen the largest wildfires in the state's history — Governor Jared Polis will be joined by other dignitaries at a quaint private ceremony in Uncompahgre National Forest. There, Forest Service officials will cut down an Engelmann spruce, during an event that will be broadcast on the GMUG National Forests Facebook page. On November 10, the tree will be toured through ten Colorado communities, where there will be free outdoor festivals, before making its way to Washington, D.C., a journey that can be followed on the Capitol Tree Tracker website, which includes a full schedule of activities.

“In this challenging time, we all look forward to seeing one of Colorado’s magnificent Engelmann spruce on full display in our nation’s Capitol to help our country ring in the holiday season and spread joy,” said Polis in a statement announcing the honor.

Joy is something that we could all use a little more of this year. To add to the holiday glee, Ouray-based folk-rock duo You Knew Me When, comprising husband and wife Cie and Karisa Hoover, will perform at the tree-cutting ceremony, and recorded music from the band's new album, Songs of the San Juans, will be played during the tree tour.

Westword caught up with Cie to learn more about the group and its Christmas spirit.

Westword: Tell me about your band.

Cie Hoover: Based in Ouray, Colorado, by way of Nashville, Tennessee, and many years of touring nationally, we are a husband-and-wife folk-rock duo that presents a full-band sound. While blending our vocals, Karisa provides the piano, ukulele, glockenspiel and percussive elements, and I supply the guitar and other rhythmic nuances. The cumulative result is a musical style and live show that melds a singer-songwriter soul with a rock-and-roll mentality.

We toured nonstop for more than six years throughout the USA and Canada after uprooting from our Nashville home and full-time jobs in 2012. Karisa had been a tenured Nashville public school music teacher, and I had worked in the Nashville music industry, including several years as the global events manager for Gibson Guitar. In June of 2012, we quit our jobs and made plans to tour the nation for a full year; however, we just never stopped.

Touring led us to Colorado, where we’ve performed all over the state, from festivals to venues, town events, quite a few breweries — we’ve actually performed at 207 different craft breweries throughout North America — and everything in between. We fell in love with the Western Slope over the years and finally put down new roots in Ouray about three and a half years ago. When we’re not out performing, which has obviously been tough this year due to COVID, Karisa is the music teacher for the Ouray School, and I am an artist working primarily with wood as my medium. We continue to perform regionally during the school year and nationally in the summer and on holidays.

How did you get the Capitol gig?

We’ve performed a lot on the Western Slope over the years, even before officially moving to Ouray. We’ve always had a very DIY, grassroots approach to promoting ourselves, and this is the type of scenario where friends, word of mouth, and folks seeing us live over the years has paid off. With the tree coming from the Western Slope, a lady from the Forest Service who had seen us perform before and knew about our brand-new album reached out to us to see if we would like to be involved. Obviously, a unique opportunity like this doesn’t come around all that often, so we jumped at the chance.

What are you performing?

We have released four studio albums to date, and the majority of the songs we will be performing will come from our latest album, Songs of the San Juans. Released this year, the album was recorded in Durango and includes an array of Colorado-inspired songs such as “Colorful Colorado,” “Ouray” and the title track, “Songs of the San Juans.” When the event organizers reached out to us, they specifically asked that we play songs off of the new album, as well as a few YKMW classics, such as “Made for the Mountains.”

Any special memories with Christmas trees or the holiday?

We lived in our Sprinter van RV for five of the years that we were touring full-time. Obviously, van life is not very conducive to having a Christmas tree. However, my mother came up with a great alternative, and quilted a small tree that we could hang inside of the van. It was always a nice way to have a little holiday spirit while traveling.

You Knew Me When's full-length album Songs of the San Juans is out now on all major streaming services. To find out more, visit You Knew Me When online; follow the band at @youknewmewhen.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Kyle Harris has been Westword’s Culture Editor since 2016, writing about the arts, music and film.
Contact: Kyle Harris